Welcome back to The Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe, a recurring series here on Tor.com featuring some of our favorite science fiction and fantasy authors, artists, and others!
Today we’re joined by Marcus Sakey, author of the Brilliance Saga—in an alternate present, one percent of people are born savants, able to overmatch and outperform the rest of us on every level. Book two in the series, A Better World, is available now from Thomas & Mercer. Marcus is also the host of the acclaimed television show Hidden City on Travel Channel, for which he is routinely pepper-sprayed and attacked by dogs. Prior to writing, he worked as a landscaper, a theatrical carpenter, a 3D animator, a woefully unprepared movie reviewer, a tutor, and a graphic designer who couldn’t draw. Marcus lives in Chicago with his wife and daughter.
What else might go well with fava beans and a nice chianti? Join us to find out!
Please relate one fact about yourself that has never appeared anywhere else in print or on the Internet.
I’m obsessed with Dark Souls. I finished DSII last week and immediately restarted it with a new character. The first time through I played as a sword-and-board warrior, so this time I’m doing a dex-build hexer—whoa. Probably best I stop typing now.
Describe your favorite place to read.
I’ll tell you instead one of my happiest moments of reading, which was on a rainy day in Amsterdam a decade ago. I was re-reading Game of Thrones in this coffeehouse, mildly stoned, wonderfully caffeinated, lounging on a couch under a skylight. The rain pattering against the glass, the smell of espresso and cigarettes, and Westeros. Hard to beat.
If you could choose your own personal theme song to play every time you enter a room, what would you pick?
I’m ashamed to say that I have actually considered this in the past, and so don’t even have to think about it. “I Wanna be Your Dog,” by The Stooges, that raw guitar lick like a scrape down a nerve. I don’t want it every time I walk in, though, just on momentous occasions.
Oh man. That’s one of the best things about writing, you get to see parts of life that are outside of the normal experience. I’ve trained with snipers, pub crawled with bank robbers, gone diving for pirate treasure in the Keys, learned to pick a deadbolt, and been pepper sprayed for television. (Seriously—check it out)
I don’t know if this is the flat-out strangest, but I’ll never forget handling a human brain. It had been sliced into sections for autopsy, each about an inch thick, and felt like pork tenderloin. I swear to god, my first thought was that if you were to dust it with chipotle and cinnamon and sauté it in butter, it would probably be delicious.
I’m not proud of that, mind you, but it’s what presented itself.
If you had to choose one band or artist to provide the official soundtrack to your new book, who would it be?
Clint Mansell, who did the soundtrack to The Fountain, and Moon, and a million others. I write to him so often that I probably owe the guy royalties.
What was your gateway to SF/Fantasy, as a child or young adult?
That’s tough, because I’ve always loved both intensely, and don’t remember a time when that wasn’t true. But I guess I’d have to say the original Star Trek TV show. It was in reruns on Sunday afternoons, and I watched every week with my dad. We’d eat peperoncini in pita bread and stare riveted as Shatner and the gang Boldly Went.
What kind of apocalypse (zombie, robot, environmental, etc.) is most compatible with your survival skills? And what kind of apocalypse would you like to avoid at all costs?
I always wanted the boat Costner had in Water World, though without the shite movie attached to it. One thing I never understood—the entire planet is covered in water, and yet the bad guys are filthy. Huh?
Truth be told, though, I doubt I’d do all that well in any sort of apocalypse. I’m a pretty resourceful guy, but I’d get tired of sleeping on the ground and eating ravioli out of a can. Wouldn’t be long before I’d wonder if the robots had internet access and HBOGO.
Cast the main characters of your new/upcoming novel (in other words, choose your dream cast for a Hollywood adaptation of your book).
I don’t have to. Legendary Pictures, the studio behind Inception and The Dark Knight and 300 are in production on the film version of these novels right now. I can’t talk about who they’ve cast, but I’ll say that I’m more than delighted. They start shooting in August.
If you, as a ghost, could regularly haunt one celebrity, author, or literary figure, who would it be?
See, the obvious answer is Scarlett Johansson, because, you know, Scarlett Johansson. But then of course, there would be the whole noncorporeal thing, and I’m guessing that it wouldn’t end up as well as I’d like.
So maybe it should be someone toward whom I could serve the more traditionally punitive role. Rush Limbaugh would be a contender; I’d love to screw up that douche’s sleep for the rest of his natural.
List three things you’d like our readers to know about you and your work.
If you pick up a copy of A Better World, you’ll lose those last five pounds while saving a baby seal under a rainbow.
I kid. It’ll be ten pounds.